365 days of summer.
365 days of looking at mostly Asian faces and realizing they're not all the same.
365 days of no central A/C
365 days of not calling it "A/C" but "air con"
365 days of driving on the other side of the road.
360 or so days of realizing it's not the "Wrong" side of the road, just the "other."
1 year and 2 days since seeing America with our own eyes (it takes 2 days to get here)
1 year to get over what we thought we left behind and realize we just traded up.
I had an expatriate friend (expatriate is what you call people who don't live in their home country...we're expatriates!) recently write very eloquently about all she thought she was leaving behind when she moved to Southeast Asia. She put it so well...so I'm gonna use her idea to talk about our 1st year living overseas.
When we left 1 year ago we had sold both our cars, our new gorgeous leather furniture which we thought we had done SO well by having when we got married, most of the barely used wedding gifts we had received just 2 years before, 95% of Sharon's shoe collection, most of our clothes, and a couple of job offers that would have afforded us a house and enough to pay off credit card debt without either of us having to work 2 jobs.
We said "C ya later" to our families, our friends, basically everyone in our life that speaks English clearly and effortlessly. The people we love, who know us, know our family, know our hearts and what makes them 'tick.'
We left behind Wal-mart, Target, malls with parking lots (as opposed to stuffy hot parking garages), shoe stores with shoes in our sizes, restaurants with menus we could read easily and know instantly what the menu was talking about when it said "Fried Chicken," "Hamburger," "Pancakes," "Blueberry pie," and "Dr.Pepper."
Some things we didn't realize we were leaving behind.
Like our sense of control of situations. Boy, when you can't speak a language and don't understand "normal" routines, your sense of independence drops and frustration rises. You do realize how AWESOME it is that when you order fried chicken at a restaurant in the US, you KNOW it's gonna come out as a whole leg, a whole breast or a whole thigh?!? We had no idea we'd get here and be confused when (once we finally figured out how to say "Fried Chicken") they brought out the chicken and it was cut into unrecognizable, almost unedible pieces with parts like "neck" and "feet" that had never been included in a definition of "fried chicken" before.
When there's a calling on your life to do something or to go somewhere, especially when you're a child of God, it's amazing the perspective that you can gain in a year.
We felt like, and still do, that we were SUPPOSED to be here. We had to trust a still small (but persistent) voice that said this was the right thing to do. He promised us that He would be faithful to us if we were faithful to Him. All we had to do was sell all our possessions and follow him.
I've heard it said (Thanks HY for the reminder!) that "You can't out-give God."
If that isn't cliche, I don't know what is.
But this year he's proven it.
We gave up a lot.
We gave up things a lot of people aren't willing to give up for that voice.
But that doesn't make us better.
I mean, it's made us better, but not 'better than so-and-so..."
Just better because we've been given back LOADS more than we ever gave up and we now realize how small a sacrifice leaving home really was. It's made us better.
Our house is the equivalent to a town-house in the US.
We drive 1 car (not 2 like in the US) but it's way nicer than either of our cars were.
We have new friends here that we've worked hard at becoming friends with...so our thankfulness for DL, Laura, K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, Justin and Daniela has shown us really what a gift friends are.
Before we took friendships (with people like us) for granted.
So we're sorry to all our friends back in the US.
We're MUCH more grateful for you now. Ya'll truly are a gift.
We've always said we wanted to be the kind of people that "travel." The past year we've been to 4 countries that are not our own...places we NEVER could have afforded to go before. Wow. And the country we live in is so beautiful. We left Florida palm trees and tropical breezes, for Southeast Asian palm trees (and banana trees, mango trees, etc) and Asian breezes.
Pretty great, huh?
But we've been given even MORE!
We have a sense of peace that is overwhelming sometimes.
I can't explain it.
But it's a gift. And it's given day after day...sometimes a few times a day if we need it.
We've gotten to spend like every day together for the last year. Before we'd high-five a couple times a day and shove a bunch in on the weekends. We know each other better now, our marriage is stronger.
It's stronger because we've had to learn together.
Learn to grocery shop
learn to speak
learn to drive
learn to be thankful
learn what in the heck we're supposed to do when we visit in local people's homes.
We make less money now.
But it's amazing that that hasn't affected us at all.
We've even gotten completely out of debt since arriving and are saving! How do you do that when you take a 35% pay cut?
We're also now bi-lingual. We use that term loosely of course, but wow! What confused and frustrated us a year ago is normal now. Even when we come across new situations (which still happen of course) we now have the vocabulary to at least ask what's going on or how to do something. What an AMAZING sense of fulfillment to feel like you 'fit' in another country. The sense of accomplishment FAR outweighs the frustration and anxiety in the beginning.
When we got here there were only 2 of us. Now there's this new little (guy?) who isn't even out yet, but is already making his presence known. All you parents out there know what we're talking about, but its absolutely amazing to think about the life God is giving us. He could have given us a baby in the US, no doubt, so I'm not saying it's because we came here that he did. What I'm saying is, we've got another perspective to look from when thinking about our baby. Experiencing our own life in a new way, and now waiting for this new little baby, helps us see that life, and the ABUNDANT life we lead is all in God's hands. I think we would hope different things for our baby if we had never come. Make sense?
We are so glad we came.
We really think we would have missed out on the biggest blessings of our lives by saying "no" to the still small voice, or ignoring it.
Now that we're here we can't imagine not being here.
We can't imagine being in the states right now and feeling the same satisfaction and sense of fulfillment as we do here now.
Not that everyone should come.
But some should.
The first step of saying, "ok" is the hardest.
After that, God starts giving so much of himself and his blessings that the thought of "We're giving up SO much, we feel so deprived" never enters our minds. It's like we say "Ok God, we're gonna sell our cars...that's HUGE." And then He responds with, "Ok Anthony and Sharon, I'll raise you on that and give you a nicer car than the ones you're selling, a house that's bigger than one you can buy now in the states, and a life in general with way cooler experiences than you've ever thought possible. Oh, yeah, and in all that I'm gonna give you a baby and make you bi-lingual too. Beat that." It's impossible! We can't out give him.
Even if he never gave us all those things, the life we have here would still be great. But he has...and he deserves more thanks than we can give him even if he decides to take it all away tomorrow. It's like we came to him with our arms full of 'stuff' and he asked us to empty them...then has filled them this year with things better than we could have asked him for.
What an AMAZING year!